I’ve done my fair share of artwork in the past. I loved it at school, studied it for GCSE and even from time to time find myself drawing or sketching should I get the chance. The feeling of creativity is great and constantly do I find myself promising I’ll learn more and practice. As you can imagine that promise hasn’t gone so well. However after playing New Art Academy I can say this looks to be my first step toward bettering my skills and getting more into the world of painting and drawing.
With any new piece of art I attempt I immediately find myself daunted by that view of a blank canvas and the constant worry of where to start, how to start and so on. Fortunately New Art Academy is there with you every step of the way in its introductory and advanced lessons tacking objects or scenery one step at a time. At first looking at a photo of a beautiful shore setting, the initial fear of beginning this complicated piece was softened as my helpful guide Vince explained and demonstrated what it was I needed to be doing. Yes the game still requires you put in a substantial amount of time and effort, but thanks to the easier to digest steps it helps give you a sense of progression and suddenly things aren’t so intimidating. Whatsmore between lessons Vince would often inform me of interesting facts such as pastels perhaps being the oldest forms of visual art. Before I knew it I was actually learning about art. It wasn’t just me copying orders and replicated images. I was actually learning in the process the techniques I was using. As a learning tool New Art Academy is surprisingly fantastic. Once a lesson has been completed, the lesson doesn’t end there with smaller chunks unlocked that expand techniques taught that little bit further showing you new methods you never would have dared try.
The entire interface of the game feels accessible yet offers the kind of depth and tools you’d want for this sort of thing. Mixing colours, using a grid and changing from brush to pencil is simple. The touch screen also works surprisingly well with each tool feeling as it should. Paint for example runs dry the longer you brush it onto the canvas, and using a wet brush allows you to smudge your work slightly especially handy for creating shadows and fading colours. Playing on the 3DS XL is fantastic with the added size giving you extra space to work on. While the regular 3DS also does a good job, you’ll find yourself making use of the zoom feature a fair bit for the more detailed sections.
Of course you’re going to start to question the need for a video game to teach you artistic techniques when you could simply just do it for real. While that is true, with this handheld tool, you’re given the lessons needed to start you off and of course you don’t require the physical materials nor have to deal with the mess.
Newer downloadable lessons will be made available in the future although nothing has appeared on the eShop just yet. More interestingly though custom lessons can be created and uploaded online for others to try that with enough time, expertise and patience can offer the same structure as those in the game itself. Throw in the fact that downloading a friend’s course is free and you’re looking at a feature that will seriously extend the life of the title beyond its built-in lessons.
Of course if you’re feeling confident enough in yourself then Free Paint is available to experiment and create your own masterpieces from scratch. Images saved on the system’s memory can be used as source material and every step of the way you can save where you are and come back in the future. This option is great fun to test out every tool the game has to offer mixing colours and simply going through each pencil to see what effects you can create and come up with.
A few little quirks prevent this from being the best art application it can be. Whereas Colors 3D on the eShop allows you to create works of art in layers to create a 3D effect, Art Academy sticks purely with the single layer. Sure you could argue that this is a tool to help you learn techniques that could in theory be used when it comes to the real deal, however it would have been nice to have the option. Another issue comes from the poorly organised saving system. The game allows you to save to your portfolio where you can hang it in a virtual gallery or share it via SpotPass. However to save it to your SD card for sending to friends via Letter Box, you have just a single opportunity to export it to your 3DS photo gallery before choosing to end a lesson. It’s a poorly executed system that can often prevent works of art being sent to friends. Mistakes are also tough to erase with pencil being the only real marking that can be gotten rid of. Sure the game is going for an authentic feel and deleting a paint stroke can’t be done in real life so why here, but would an undo button be too much to ask?
New Art Academy is one of those genuinely lovely surprises that has managed to get me interested in art and painting once more. Whereas I’m usually quick to jump onto the next Mario title or action packed adventure RPG, I found it a refreshingly relaxing change of pace to sit back and take my time painting a cherry or touching up my pastel drawing of a Pikmin. Like an engaging class with a great lecturer, this is one lesson that’s worth attending.